FactChecking Debate No. 3
October 16, 2008
Sorting out fact and fiction in the presidential candidates' final debate.
Spin and hype were apparent, once again, at the third and final debate between McCain and Obama:
- McCain claimed the liberal group ACORN “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history ... maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.” In fact, a Republican prosecutor said of the first and biggest ACORN fraud case: “[T]his scheme was not intended to permit illegal voting.” He said $8-an-hour workers turned in made-up voter registration forms rather than doing what ACORN paid them to do.
- McCain said “Joe the plumber” faced “much higher taxes” under Obama’s tax plan and would pay a fine under Obama’s health care plan if he failed to provide coverage for his workers. But Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher would pay higher taxes only if the business he says he wants to buy puts his income over $200,000 a year, and his small business would be exempt from Obama’s requirement to provide coverage for workers.
- Obama repeated a dubious claim that his health care plan will cut the average family’s premiums by $2,500 a year. Experts have found that figure to be overly optimistic.
- McCain claimed that Obama’s real “object” is a government-run, single-payer health insurance system like those in Canada or England. The McCain campaign points to a quote from five years ago, when Obama told a labor gathering that he was “a proponent of a single-payer health care program.” But Obama has since qualified his enthusiasm for Canadian-style health care, and his current proposal is nothing like that.
- Obama incorrectly claimed all of McCain’s ads had been “negative.” That was true for one recent week, but not over the entire campaign. And at times Obama has run a higher percentage of attack ads than McCain.
- McCain described Colombia as the "largest agricultural importer of our products." Actually, Canada imports the most U.S. farm products, and Colombia is far down the list.
- Obama strained to portray himself as willing to break ranks with fellow Democrats. His prime example was his vote for a bill that was supported by 18 Democrats and opposed by 26. Congressional Quarterly rates him as voting with his party 97 percent of the time since becoming a U.S. senator.